Episode [] MSP62 [] I Own It. Life, Chaos & How to be Happy in 2019

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

Episode [] MSP62 [] I Own It. Life, Chaos & How to be Happy in 2019

Make 2019 the year you take responsibility, stop caring and own it. 

Show Links:

 

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/shortcuts/2019/jan/14/inbox-infinity-is-ignoring-all-your-emails-the-secret-to-a-happy-2019

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work

https://www.bustle.com/articles/138969-3-reasons-we-need-to-stop-saying-being-an-adult-is-hard

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/14/obsessed-success-early-in-life-sally-rooney-youth

 

 

Episode Transcript

 

These shows are dictated to and transcribed by machines, and hurriedly edited by a human. Apologies for the typos and grammar flaws.

 

Self-appointed feel bad guru and death coach Matt Armitage has returned from last week’s holiday with a promise to make you feel happier and more productive in 2019.

·      I can only assume by the tone of sarcasm and pretty much hatred, that things did not go well with Future Matt last week.

 

He added a mincer to shred my atoms. For fun.

·      He does that kind of thing.

·      All the things I think about doing to people, he actually does.

·      He has a lot of free will in that sense.

 

He killed every one of my descendants…

·      He looks at things from a weird perspective, I’ll grant you.

·      He could simply have popped in the machine to come to see you rather than do that.

·      I guess it comes down to what’s easier. 

·      And he didn’t kill all of them.

·      There was that one baby in a wicker basket in the bulrushes.

·      We expect great things to come from her in the future.

 

In the future’s future?

·      It does get a bit messy, doesn’t it?

·      It’s probably important to remember that despite the way he makes it sound, Future Matt doesn’t have the complete picture.

·      He’s still just peering at things from behind his own mental clutter.

 

Everything with Future Matt is cluttered and messy.

·      We know he lies. But I listened to the episode.

·      I can’t tell you whether all his predictions will come true – he didn’t mention Jeff Bezos getting a divorce, for example – 

·      But nothing he said was really outlandish or out there.

 

Which is why you think you can tackle world happiness this week? This is just another excuse to talk about your Inbox, isn’t it?

·      I’m going to have to approach this one at a time.

·      No – I’m not claiming to be able to solve world happiness – if that’s even a thing.

·      And yes, I will be mention my dirty inbox, in the broader context of productivity and happiness.

·      If, by the end of the episode we can get some people to worry a tiny bit less then it won’t have been a waste of time.

 

So we’re essentially talking about people being overwhelmed by technology?

·      Partly. And it’s easy to do.

·      Take social media. For reasons of stupidity I have three separate Instagram feeds.

·      One for this show @mattsplained, one for Kulturpop and one for my personal stuff.

·      It’s the same with Facebook. I have 3 accounts.

·      That’s on top of my Kulturpop website.

·      And as a result I don’t really maintain any of them as well as I want to.

 

I was discussing this with Future Matt. You’re back on Twitter.

·      I heard what you said about that.

·      And no, I’m not stupid enough to say I’m going to subvert it from within.

·      I stand by what I’ve said about Twitter.

·      I think it fails to measure up to our expectations – the same as a lot of social media companies.

·      So you can call it hypocritical but I’m back on there because I was missing out on a lot of information from and by people that I am very interested in.

·      That may make me a hypocrite. I own it. 

 

Is that your theme for 2019? You own it?

·      I hadn’t thought of it quite in those terms. 

·      But sure. If life is a hashtag then #Iownit works.

 

Did you invent that hashtag?

·      No. Someone on social media came up with it.

·      I could probably find out if it was more important, but it isn’t.

·      I’m not a cyber anthropologist - The origin of hashtags isn’t my primary focus.

·      One reason I like it is because the #OwnIt has become quite accusatory.

·      We live in a weird time where we’re happy to yell at other people to own their mistakes, yet we go to incredible lengths to disavow our own responsibility for almost anything. 

·      That’s not a recipe for moving forward.

·      It’s a recipe for entrenchment and conflict.

 

Is this a social media problem?

·      It’s partly an information issue, and partly an expectations problem.

·      Over Xmas and the early part of this year – 2019, in case anyone is wondering whether Future Matt has snuck back in – I’ve been reading a lot of those end of the year, what can we hope for next year type posts.

·      I was struck by the intersection of a lot of these generational type posts – one was on Millennials and how they’ve become the burn-out generation – and the kind of productivity-based posts.

·      And a lot of things have been coming up about option paralysis.

 

Option paralysis?

·      The idea that the more choices we have, the less we are able to choose.

·      The classic example is the supermarket marmalade test.

 

Marmalade? This is still a tech show, isn’t it?

·      A holistic tech show demonstrating the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.

 

You aren’t Dirk Gently…

·      No, but this show is a little bit Adamsantine – a word I made up to describe being a bit like Douglas Adams.

 

You just said that you aren’t about the origin of words?

·      I don’t care about the ownership of the word.

·      I’m just explaining why I’m abusing the perfectly good word adamantine.

 

The stuff that Wolverine is made out of?

·      Yeah, not going there. 

·      What were we talking about?

 

Option paralysis and why it can’t be fixed with an exoskeleton…

·      I’ll do the jokes, thank you.

·      Yes. Marmalade.

·      When customers in a supermarket were given a display that included a couple of dozen different types of marmalade, they stopped and they sampled quite a few.

 

I don’t think anyone could eat 20 different types of marmalade in one sitting…

·      And that was the problem. You’d try two or three and see so many you hadn’t tried.

·      Had you tried the best one? The best value one? By choosing one, were you actually foregoing making a better choice because you had imperfect knowledge?

·      People tried but didn’t buy. They had option paralysis.

·      But when the amount of choice was reduced to half a dozen or less, they tried and they bought.

·      They weren’t overwhelmed.

 

This matters in a technology sense how and why?

·      In that model we’re seeing option paralysis as it relates to marmalade.

·      Not a big deal. It’s hardly going to put you in a jam.

·      But with technology we see a creep of the option paralysis.

 

How so?

·      I have too many Instagram accounts, as I said.

·      Somehow that seems to effect everything I do online.

·      I feel guilty about posting to my personal account as I haven’t updated my business accounts. 

·      For that reason, I feel guilty about posting to Facebook, and that’s an entirely different platform.

·      And then I start thinking about the updates to my website I haven’t done, or the articles I haven’t completed for Medium.

·      So then, I end up watching loops of cat videos, instead of actually tackling those things.

 

And I guess we add to that pressure with new technologies and networks?

·      Precisely. I was looking at one of those new video creation and music sharing platforms this week.

·      Triller, I think it’s called.

·      What I like about it is that you can combine lots of clips and looks and the app’s AI will make a cool looking video for you.

·      I’ve experimented with a few of these. 

·      Magisto, for example is geared around longer form video whereas Triller is currently a bit Vine-like and limits you to 16secs.

 

So we can expect to see clips of you lip synching to old goth records?

·      I don’t think the world needs me cavorting around and pretending to be Nikki Minaj or every single member of BTS.

·      I love the potential these apps have. I’d love to make more use of them.

·      But time is a huge constraint.

·      I would love to be creating more and regular content for other platforms.

·      Instagram TV, for one. 

·      But there’s only me – there isn’t an enormous team of Kulturpop flunkies getting ready to gild my lily. 

·      As a result of thinking about all the things you could be doing, there’s a tendency to lose direction and fail at the things you should be doing.

·      And that’s also where the creep comes in. We can be so preoccupied with perfecting something online that simple real world tasks like laundry or paying bills are built up into these massive roadblocks that we feel unable to move around.

 

I’m glad you mentioned failure. Is a fear of failing contributing to this sense of inertia?

·      This is only anecdotal, but I think so. 

·      A lot of people have talked for years about millennials having unrealistic expectations of life.

·      But, as one of the articles I read handily points out, the oldest millennials are now 38.

·      The youngest is 22. 

·      So, the oldest millennials may have kids who are now in their teens. 

 

So even when we talk about millennials we’re not talking about people with the same outlook.

·      Jeff – you would be an earlyish millennial. 

·      You would have been in your teens before high bandwidth Internet, streaming and social media came along.

·      Late millennials would barely remember a world without them.

·      So even when smug pundits like me talk about millennials we’re really just sneerily talking about anyone who’s younger than us and was born into a predominantly digital era.

 

Why would that matter?

·      Because it again allows us to fall into these binary patterns of behaviour and dismiss everyone as a single group with a shared mentality.

·      Rather than looking at the complexity and diversity of that group and its expectations. 

 

BREAK

 

It’s always confusing when Matt wears his hero head rather than the comedy villain one we’re used to. 

 

You’re trying to protect the young again, aren’t you?

·      I was reading one article earlier this week, and I don’t usually comment, and it was about the pressure on this generation to succeed while they’re young. 

·      And we see social media stars buckling under the pressure, having breakdowns.

·      So I commented that that pressure has always been there. 

·      That was a pressure I felt in the 90s.

·      It’s not new. 

·      Particularly in the creative fields.

·      We often talk about the 27 club – that terrible group of talented young people who take their own lives or overdose, or otherwise die in some ridiculous way connected to their youth at the age of 27.

·      What most people don’t realise is that club goes back to the 1860s. Not the 1960s. But a full hundred years earlier.

·      People have been living and dying for their art for a very long time.

 

What’s different now?

·      I guess it’s in the way that those insecurities manifest themselves. 

·      Earlier this week I commented on another article on a website, pointing out that the headline was grammatically incorrect. Maybe it was more ambiguous than incorrect, but it struck me as wrong.

·      I received a flurry of negative responses, one of which accused me essentially of being perverse and twisted.

·      For pointing out a grammatical mistake. In what I thought was a light-hearted way.

·      It’s absurd – it annoyed me at the time – but I realised that I couldn’t let myself rise to it. 

 

Why do you think it upset people? 

·      I don’t know. Maybe me Explaining how something should be phrased  and them not really understanding it was a trigger for their own insecurities.

·      I don’t know. But it goes back to that binary response mechanism:

o  Their position was that the headline couldn’t mean what it actually said, because the article meant something else, ergo I was wrong. 

·      Maybe it was because I used what I think of as humour on a serious piece?

·      I’ll be honest – when I saw the comments, I went back and dissected the headline to see if I’d made a mistake and inadvertently upset people.

·      I hadn’t. It says what it says. And not what they think it says.

·      And there’s nothing I can do about that.

 

Why did you bother to go back and check?

·      Because, as we discussed earlier, I own it. If I was wrong I would be happy to apologize.

·      In fact, being stereotypically British my first thought was to go back and apologize anyway.

·      But there was nothing offensive about what I said.

·      I didn’t criticise the article, which was great btw, nor the author, or the editor and subs.

·      Or anyone who commented.

·      I simply stated what the headline actually means. 

 

And you think it was millennials or Gen Zers commenting?

·      Not especially. Probably not at all. It was an article about cancer. 

·      Not the first thing most younger people click on over breakfast.

·      But we like to say that it’s Millennials and Gen Z who can’t take criticism, who are snowflakes, who have unrealistic expectations.

·      I think the older generations are, if anything, far more brittle: we’re just projecting our own fears and shortcomings onto another generation. 

 

It’s enlightening to have a look at that rather strange world inside your head, but how will this help to make us happy and productive this year?

·      One thing is maximalism. 

 

Conspicuous consumption?

·      No. You can still keep your principles.

·      More in terms of accepting that life is a mess.

·      That you can’t bring order to everything or pare everything down to some basic and easily digestible form.

·      Also, quite importantly, that technology doesn’t always simplify the task, often it amplifies it and makes it possible for us to be working on tasks everywhere and always.

 

Back to social media…

·      Yes, back to social media.

·      We’re all bombarded by posts on Instagram by beautifully lit 20 something influencers standing on the edge of some cliff or building, surrounded by some exotic vista.

·      Their job title will always include something like brand expert, serial entrepreneur, marketing evangelist.

·      And their posts always make you feel terrible.

 

They make you feel terrible?

·      They don’t make me feel terrible because I refuse to follow them back and I expel their sponsored posts from my feed.

·      And I don’t entertain them because those people aren’t real.

·      If they were, they wouldn’t be trying to sell you a misspelled pdf outlining the 7 keys to their unspecified yet somehow winning formula.

·      You buying that book is their formula and it’s the only formula they have.

·      And as for the photos: I’ve said this before:

o  They most likely went on a 2 month tour of Asia two years ago and have been drip feeding the photos ever since.

·      In reality, they’re holed up in the boxroom at their mum’s house, hustling for jobs on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and too scared to get dressed most days.

·      Don’t let their insecurity feed yours.

 

But we all want that perfect job, that career we’re passionate about…

·      Life isn’t about working.

·      If you can find that path, amazing, I’m made up for you.

·      But the majority of people don’t find that. 

·      Statically it’s not possible. There simply aren’t enough jobs in the world that you can be passionate about.

·      In the same way that not everyone can be a billionaire, because if we were, then billionaire would be the new poor. 

·      We work because we have bills to pay.

·      But we use that not always enjoyable experience to try and build a rewarding life for ourselves outside work.

·      If someone had told teen Jeff that once a week he would have to lock himself in a little box with me for an hour every week, he might have made different life choices.

 

Isn’t it good to have that goal?

·      Yes. But don’t put all your self-belief and identity on a career.

·      Most older people, when you ask them about their job, they will tell you it put food on the table and provided for their families. 

·      The issue of whether they loved it or not rarely comes into it.

·      And as we move into an era of technology fuelled under-employment, work is going to be something we’re lucky to get, let alone something we’re passionate about or find fulfilment or identity in.

 

Your route to happiness is unusual.

·      Not really. I’m saying adjust your expectations.

·      Look for validation in other ways.

·      Maybe you work in a call centre doing tech support during the week. 

·      Or worse, you’re an outsourced worker doing content moderation for Facebook.

·      But you can volunteer for a tiger conservation charity at the weekend, and be a quiet hero making a difference in the world.

·      Find that sense of perspective and belonging in other places. Ones that actually value and respect you. 

·      Use that perspective to get upset about the big things

·      Don’t lose your lunch because you’ve read something online and you’re angry because you’ve misunderstood it. 

·      I’d love to understand Stephen Hawking’s work. I don’t. My maths brain just doesn’t reach that far.

·      But that doesn’t make me angry. I don’t spend my nights throwing plates across the dining room and swearing at my wife because astrophysics makes my head spin. 

·      It makes me even more thankful that we have people like Stephen Hawking rather than more people like me.

 

You’re saying that we can he happy if we embrace the chaos?

·       I’m saying accept that the world is chaotic, absurd and hypocritical.

·       And that there’s beauty in all of those things.

·       Taking everything so seriously is a recipe for a breakdown of some description.

·       Worrying if you’ll make enough money this month to feed your family – that’s real and horrifying and I’m glad that my life choices mean I’ll never have to stress about kids.

·       Worrying whether your career path will allow you to fly to exotic locations and have tea with the Dalai Lama, how important is that in the scheme of things?

 

Would you describe yourself as a hypocrite?

·      We’re all in some ways hypocritical. 

·      And we have to accept and embrace that.

·      Life isn’t binary. 

·      You can hold contradictory views.

 

Instagram is right but Twitter is wrong?

·      Are examples of exactly the kind of views that don’t matter in the grander scheme.

·      Here’s a for instance.

·      I want to reduce my plastic use and waste.

·      I know how much damage it’s doing to the planet. 

·      But when I go to a supermarket, if it’s one of those places where the chicken or beef is on display, sitting on ice in the open air, rather than in plastic wrapped packets, I won’t buy that meat.

·      For me, it’s unhygienic. If I cooked it, I’d be too worried about getting sick to eat it.

·      So I acknowledge that hypocrisy. I take my own reusable bags to the supermarket and then double bag a plastic wrapped container of chicken because I’m afraid of salmonella contamination.

·      I recognise that hypocrisy and I own it. I’m flaunting my imperfections.

 

And the same goes for Maximalism?

·      We have an ideal of perfection that’s exacerbated by social media.

·      You can see it in people who are perfectly dressed or made-up up at all times. 

·      The house is spotless.

·      Your car has to be in showroom condition, inside and out.

·      Reality is messy. Sure, watch Marie Kondo and take some of it onboard if it works for you.

·      But if it doesn’t – find the balance of chaos that works for you.

·      For me, that’s spending time learning guitar and watching Netflix rather than clearing junk out of my email inbox.

·      Nearly at 100k unread emails btw

·      More importantly, It’s about finding a system that separates out the junk so that important messages go to straight to me and I can responded without wading through all the nonsense. 

 

You didn’t reply my last email…

·      Which means the system is working. Perfectly.

·      Look, we all see those posts or overhear people saying that they’re not being their best selves right now.

·      If you’re really unlucky someone has said it to you – and you need to shut that stuff right down.

·      Most of us are rarely our best selves.

·      Most of us are our ‘wahey, I’ve managed to shower today’ selves.

·      Forget about being your best self and concentrate on just being yourself.

·      If other people don’t like that, tell them to stick their best self.

 

When was the last time you were your best self?

·      I don’t know, probably about 10 years ago.

·      It wasn’t something I thought about. 

·      I ran into a potentially dangerous situation because it was simply something I had to do.

·      I wasn’t looking for applause, rewards or plaudits. The people concerned have probably forgotten what I did.

·      That doesn’t matter. Doing it mattered. 

·      The rest of the time I’m the unshaven mess in unironed clothes who is happy to hide between the thin wall separating the world of radio from reality.

·      But I’m happy with the mess of my life and the mess of the world.

·      I’ve found ways to be systematic and productive in the mess.

·      And I’ve learned not to beat myself up about all the things I’ve failed to do over the last 46 years.

·      Lastly, and most importantly, I don’t care that some people can’t grasp basic grammar.

·      Because I Own It.